Here it is, the long-awaited birth story. Rainer says it’s too detailed, but that’s just my style, so feel free to skim or even skip this post entirely if you so desire. I decided to leave in all the gory details, so be warned, it’s not for the weak of heart (or stomach)!
It all began way back on July 22. I awoke at 6am, after having finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows at 3am, thinking that I just needed to make a typical early morning run to the bathroom. When I got there however, I realized that there was a lot more liquid than expected coming out of me, and that my pajama bottoms were soaked. I called to Rainer, “Rainer, the baby is coming!” No answer. “RAINER!!! THE BABY IS COMING!” There was a faint groan from the direction of the bedroom.
I brushed my teeth, washed my face, changed clothes and stuffed a bladder control pad in my pants to help absorb the steady stream of amniotic fluid that was rushing out of me. While I waited for Rainer to do the same, well, except for the bladder control pad part, I made a quick entry in my blog to let folks know that my water had broken (and I apparently can’t spell when going into labor in the early morning). Rainer rushed Charlie out to get his business done, I spread a towel on the front seat of the car, and then we were off, racing towards the Autobahn on the finally reopened main road into town.
Twenty minutes later, Rainer dropped me at the hospital entrance. I waddled through the lobby, down the stairs (where Rainer caught up to me), and into the delivery area to check in. We were taken to a delivery room, where the midwife told us that they were going to do a CTG (baby Doppler) for 30 minutes to see how the baby is doing.
While this was being done, a deranged doctor came in and attempted to insert an IV into me. She started with the right arm, that didn’t work. She moved on to the left arm, again, no luck. Finally, she stuck me several times in the back of the left hand, and managed to find a vein.
When the half hour CTG was up, the midwife announced that Oliver was fine, but I wasn’t having proper contractions and the cervix was only a centimeter open (for those of you not in the know, the cervix needs to open to 10 centimeters). They moved me up to a room in the maternity ward (we got a family room, so Rainer could sleep in the second bed) and they told us that if the real contractions didn’t start in the next 12 hours, they would have to induce labor. Until then, I was not allowed to get out of bed; in fact, they thought it best if I stayed on my left side the whole time. This was to prevent any more amniotic fluid from leaking out (although it still did), and to make sure that the umbilical cord didn’t emerge, which could cause complications during labor.
I’m very glad that I didn’t get assigned bed rest during my pregnancy, because twelve hours stuck in bed was quite enough for me. Not only that, I found it seriously awkward to relieve myself in a bedpan.
I managed to nap a bit, but nothing else constructive occurred, so at 6pm, I was wheeled down to the delivery room, hooked up to the CTG again, and given a pill to induce labor. The midwives said that probably nothing would happen in the next four hours (usually they have to give a second dose of medication then to get things going), so Rainer ran home to take a shower, walk Charlie, and grab clothes and toiletries for himself.
But before Rainer could return, contractions began, and my goodness, were they painful. Oliver’s head wasn’t fully down, so I still needed to stay in bed, looks like all the instructions on birthing positions I received were for naught. I suffered contractions every 4-5 minutes for some time before they announced that Oliver had descended enough for me to get out of bed. And now they wanted to give me an enema.
The midwife did her thing, and then told me to walk around for fifteen minutes before heading to the toilet. But about a minute after getting out of bed, a contraction hit and holding it in during a contraction was not something I was capable of, I ran to the toilet and just made it.
Now that I could stand, we tried a few different labor positions. Sitting on the yoga ball was awful. Standing and hanging on to Rainer proved the most comfortable (Rainer says it was only comfortable for me), but I soon found the contraction pain too overwhelming. It was time for the epidural.
I was ready for pain when they inserted the catheter into my spine. I’d heard a lot of stories about how painful/uncomfortable this procedure is, and you know what? It didn’t hurt at all. I barely even felt it. The anesthesiologist noticed that I winced every time someone touched my IV and offered to put in a new one for me. The last thing I wanted was to get stuck yet again, but Rainer told me that anesthesiologists are usually really good at putting in IVs, so I decided to trust her. She removed the badly placed one that had been burning badly since it was put in by Doctor Demento, and quickly and painlessly inserted a new one in the back of my right hand. I was so grateful, words cannot express my thanks. But this made it uncomfortable to hold hands with Rainer, since the IV was in the way on my right hand and my left hand was a big fiery ball of pain (it still hurts three weeks later if you push on the spot!).
The epidural made things so much easier. I was able to nap a little more, but there were complications. My blood pressure was dropping and I needed to be given IV fluids and medication to try to keep it steady, although it still hovered around 80/45. But as my blood pressure stabilized, Oliver’s heart rate started to drop. Machine after machine was wheeled into the room. I was surrounded by monitors and beeps. Every once in a while an alarm would go off and the midwife would rush in to check.
My cervix was taking its time opening. It wasn’t until late morning on the 23rd, over 24 hours after checking in, that it had gotten to 8 centimeters dilated. I was shivering badly due to muscle exhaustion and despite it being pretty comfortable, I needed to be covered in blankets to keep the shivering under control. The midwife gave me glucose tablets to chew on to keep my energy up. To make sure Oliver was fine, every once in a while, the doctor was inserting a needle through my vagina up into the uterus to draw some blood from his scalp. They then tested the blood to make sure his oxygen levels were fine, which they were. If at any time his oxygen level had dropped, I would’ve gone in for an immediate emergency C-section (Kaiserschnitt).
As noon approached, the contractions started to get painful again. Up until that point, deep breathing had sufficed, but suddenly I was screaming and asking if the epidural dosage could be increased. I had a serious suspicion that the epidural medication had run out and needed to be replaced.
The contractions were coming with almost no pause in between. I was screaming and Rainer was starting to wish that they’d just take me for a C-section. Suddenly, they said I was in the second stage of labor, the cervix was open, and I had an overwhelming desire to push with the contractions.
I knew that this stage could go on for minutes or hours, with first time moms leaning more towards the hour or longer end of things, but I was completely exhausted and didn’t think I could make it another hour. I decided that I was going to bear down with all my strength (and use the deep grunting method I learned as a shot-putter) to get this baby out ASAP. The doctor was poised between my legs, ready to take another blood sample from Oliver when the midwife literally had to push her out of the way, yelling that the baby was coming now and there was no time for another test. Oliver was born after 2-3 minutes, with the fifth push-contraction. Rainer said there was no second push for his shoulders, he just came shooting out. The doctor and midwife both had to wonder at the speed of his delivery, they proclaimed with awe that what I’d done was “Bärenstark” (“done really, really well”).
Oliver was put on my chest directly after the cord was cut by Rainer, but I was too wasted to do much more than pat him on the back. He was taken by the midwife, who brought him over to the in-room sink, where Rainer gave him his first bath. Despite being born with the umbilical cord wrapped twice around his neck, Oliver was none the worse for wear, and received a perfect 10 out of 10 Agpar score.
Then it was time for me to deliver the placenta. The midwife told me I needed to push again, although I said that I couldn’t push anymore. She goaded me on and finally I made one more push and felt some pressure as the placenta was expelled. The doctor started stitching me up; I had a pretty bad perineal tear. I had expected 10-15 stitches, but the stitching just kept going and going. It didn’t hurt, but I could feel her tying the stitches up.
We stayed in the delivery room for several hours. I nursed Oliver for the first time, and the midwife came in to ask if we wanted a photo of just Oliver or of the whole family. We chose the family shot and she returned later with the lovely photo below.
In the next days in the maternity ward, we were shown by the nurses how to care for Oliver and they helped show me how to breastfeed properly. I went through a lot of giant industrial-size maxi pads and enjoyed the comfy mesh panties provided by the hospital. I was able to shower that evening, and it was lovely. The food was pretty good, and there was a machine that dispensed water (with or without bubbles).
After the birth, I swore there was no way I was going to have another baby. I could not go through that again. But as time has gone by and I’ve gotten to know Oliver, I think maybe I could be convinced to go through with the whole thing one more time.